The other night I got a chance to catch Couches at The Know. They were finishing up a small summer tour that probably qualified as the hottest on record. I mean, Idaho and Montana in July? Eugene, OR, basements with no A/C? Yikes. After the show, I got to sit down and chat with Couches frontman Dave Mitchell. We talked about the inner workings of DIY record labels, the importance of touring, and “slacker rock” as a genre. Check out Couches on Facebook to keep up with their upcoming, 60-show, nationwide Slackin’ Since the 80s tour starting in September, and go grab their California 7” from 20 Sided Records.
GB: Slacker-rock. What do you think about that title — that genre? Is it fair to call you that?
DM: Yeah, we like to describe ourselves as that [“slacker rock”] or “soft grunge” which is another term we tried to get going. We’re just lazy dudes — I call it “slacker rock” because we try to simplify the music.
You guys are finishing up a small tour right now — what was your favorite show from this past tour?
The first show. We played a house party in Eugene, and that’s the night my tubes blew, but it still sounded rad. It was to a bunch of kids, and it was like 100 degrees — maybe 110 — in this basement. Hot as shit. Everybody was just dripping sweat. Most of the guys had their shirts off — staph infection waiting to happen. But, it was just good energy, and we made like, really good money… at a house party… which is strange. Sold merch. It was just a fun show.
Yeah, the first show was good! Usually the later shows are better because you get tighter as you go, but… the heat killed us. [laughs]
You tour a lot it seems like. Every time I see some Facebook update, it’s always like, “We’re in fucking Pittsburgh!” or some shit, now we’re here, now we’re there…
Yeah, we try to tour as much as possible. The main reason is cause we hate playing our hometown. I feel like 80% of bands saturate their hometown. They’ll play every two weeks, where bands should be playing once every two to three months in their hometown. Unless they get offered a big show. Cause why are their friends going to go out to every single fucking show every two weeks? That’s my opinion.
And most bands have been bands for like 10 years, and they’re just now touring. We’ve only been a band for like… 19 months, maybe? And tonight was our 147th show. Our goal was to do 200 shows in two years, and I think we’re gonna make it. If we stay on schedule, it’ll be like 212 shows.
And that’s technically going to be the Slackin’ Since the 80s tour?
Yeah. It’s a 12”, 9 songs. We were all born in the 80s, so we’ve been lazy since the 80s. We leave September 8th and get back November 8th. 60 dates — the whole country. We’re going south, so it’s gonna be Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, Northwest, and then zig-zagging into the center.
That must be a bitch, to have to book 60 shows.
We’re doing it all ourselves, so it’s cool. It’s halfway booked… maybe a little more than that. Just hitting up bands we know, hitting up bookers, plus I use the label.
Yeah, the label you run is called 20 Sided Records. How old is that?
I think it’s almost five years old now. I think 2010 was the first year, so it’s four, almost five years old.
How did that start?
I was in an old band called Slow Trucks, and we were talking to some decent labels, and the deals were shit, man. Like… shitty. Like, “We’ll press 500 records, and we’ll give you 20 — you can buy them off of us at cost plus five” — because they double the price. And it’s weird. It just wasn’t worth it.
I was in this real cool group of friends, and the bands were always playing out of Oakland and San Francisco. The bands were all really similar, 90s-sounding, slackerish, grunge rock. Everybody wanted to press records, so we just started a label to make it look professional, like, “Oh, we’re a part of this collective.” I don’t look at it as a label — it’s a collective of friends. If you’re a part of the label, it’s like, “Hey, we’re from here, come through here and play shows.” All the bands on the label press their own stuff and pay for most of it — I just pitch in a little. No distribution. It’s all DIY. No Spotify, no iTunes, no Pandora. That’s all shit that rips bands off. Why am I gonna let a label give me all this money to pay them back? Cause bands don’t make shit on the road. Labels put like $100,000 on a stupid fucking band, and those bands sell out their souls, and they’ll do whatever the fuck they say.
At 20 Sided we do our own shit, and that’s what it’s all about. Some people think it’s a big label or something — they’ll be like, “Hey, will you put this out?” and I’ll be like, “Yeah, I’m down to do this, but it’s all about you guys.” I only want a little bit to put into local record stores in SF, and then I sell them online, and that’s it.
Does it ever get shitty?
All the time. Things can always get worse, but that’s the point of life, the point of being a band — overcoming the shit. And the music industry in general, there’s no money there. We do it for fun. We’re not just playing shows — that’s a bonus of touring for us. We get to meet new people and party with those people and see the countryside. And then it’s like, “Oh yeah, we have to play a show tonight… Damn, we gotta leave this park!”
Do you tell the bands on 20 Sided about the importance of touring?
Always. I have an unspoken agreement of, “You need to tour three months out of the year” — which is one month out of every four months. And that’s fucking easy. Tour a week here. Three weeks later, tour a week… three weeks later, do another week. Or wait two months, and do a three week tour. It’s 12 weeks out of the year.
What’s a weird or funny tour experience you’ve had?
We just played this 4th of July in San Jose, right before we left on this tour. I was loading my gear out, and I was carrying my amp, and as I come out the front door, I almost stepped in this pile of dog shit. It was on this doormat that was on the grass, and the grass, the doormat, and the shit were all the same color. So as I’m loading into the van, I’m like, “Fuck, I need to go move that doormat cause someone’s gonna step in it, and it’s gonna track through the house, and it’s gonna be gross.” So, as I go back to get it, there’s a group of people already sitting where it’s at. I go over, and sure enough this dude had sat in the dog shit, and he was wearing white shorts. I was like, “Man, I’m so sorry, I think you sat in dog shit, though.” And he was like, “No, I don’t think I did. I smell it, it’s right around here, though.” That show was like 105 degrees at 10pm in San Jose, 4th of July, so we were kind of distraught, but then that happened, and it made our night.